Racism still exists in popular media

Sometimes it’s subtle, other times it’s blatant and disgustingly obvious. Despite being about 40 years removed from the civil rights movement, racial stereotypes still exist in our society today in many different forms, including popular media. The reality TV series The Flavor of Love, similar to the style of The Bachelor and featuring Flavor Flav, is one of the most popular shows on cable television, with its season finale drawing more than 6 million viewers. It features 20 contestants vying for flamboyant rap star Flavor Flav’s affection, while they all live with him in a plush mansion. The women, who are all scantily clad and mostly African-American, engage in raunchy activities with Flavor Flav in hopes of increasing their chances of being picked. This season’s premiere began with two women brawling over a bed and ended with one contestant defecating on the floor while racing to the bathroom after a bad meal. While all of this debauchery may be viewed as a harmless guilty pleasure, some feel it is a sad reflection of race relations in America. According to tv.com, Flavor of Love is one of the only shows in the top 50 in popularity that features a black man as the main character. Seeing as these are some of the only prominent roles for African-Americans (Flavor Flav and the women) in mainstream television, many complain that this is not a reasonable representation of the African-American race. Jason Whitlock, a prominent African-American sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, said, “It’s about time we as black people quit letting Flavor Flav and the rest of these clowns bojangle for dollars.” Perhaps the best known instance of racial stereotyping in popular media today is by Survivor: Cook Islands, a show that doesn’t even try to make a pretense of being politically correct. In its 13th season, the show has decided to racially segregate its 20 contestants into 4 tribes, made up of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, whites, and Latinos. Most critics blasted it as a cheap ploy to get ratings, while others went as far to say that it was proposing a war between races. Mark Burnett, the show’s producer, said that it was an attempt to foster diversity. In a best case scenario, the contestants would dispel all sorts of stereotypes and come together as human beings. But the problem with dividing teams into racial groups is that when people see members of an ethnicity as a group they perceive every member to be representative of that group and stereotypes quickly begin to emerge. For example, the always controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh said that the Asians were the brainiacs of the bunch and that Hispanics have an advantage because they will do things that other people won’t do. He also said he hoped there were not going to be a lot of water events’ because he thought the black contestants would be poor swimmers and that the white team would run into problems because of their guilt at oppressing all these people. It appears as if Survivor: Cook Islands just seems to strengthen stereotypes at a time when racism obviously still exists. But for CBS it doesn’t matter because Survivor has been revived from the dead and they are rolling in the dough once again. “It’s entertainment, first of all,” said counselor Reese Hendricks. “People in the industry know that controversial topics sell,” When popular media shows us these racial stereotypes in TV that we watch daily, it becomes easy to accept them as reality. But by no means should these stereotypes be taken seriously.